Story by Amy Palmer | Photos by Kaltun Elmi and Abdi (film crew)
Recently the plight of the people in the Horn of Africa, including the unrecognised Republic of Somaliland has been hitting the news.
Kaltun Elmi from Wensley has lived in Sheffield for twelve years and left Somaliland 30 years ago. She returned in early May to respond to the crisis which her people are facing. She explained to me that there has been no rain in Somaliland for three years now. No crops have grown and the rivers have slowly dried up into dust.
Desperate people have left their homes in search of food and water. Even the small remaining amounts of water are often contaminated with bacteria from over ten million livestock whose bodies litter the barren countryside.
Kaltun and her friends (including local MPs and MEPs) fundraised enough money to feed 130 families in just 48 hours, managing to raise enough for another twenty families while she was out there. She bought bulk supplies of rice, flour, milk, sugar, dates and oil that had been bought in from neighbouring countries then drove out into the rural areas. Under the advice of news reporter and Somalilander, Rageh Omar, she set up distribution points in the night so as not to be rushed at by the hungry people. They came to claim food for their families and Kaltun and her companions drove it to where it was needed, as the hungry were too weak to carry it themselves.
With tears in her eyes she told me how, on the drive back to the city, she stopped to talk to a child who was crying and hitting herself. The child had just found five of her goats dead. Her family were laid down nearby as they were too weak to stand. With no food parcels left Kaltun gave her a package of dates which her team had been eating, and her prayers.
This horrific situation is made worse by Somaliland’s situation of not being a recognised independent state. This means they cannot borrow money from the World Bank to help in crisis and, when asked, the people whom she met had seen no aid workers. They are operating in surrounding countries also facing crisis. During our two hour meeting her phone did not stop ringing with international calls from people desperate for food and medicine.
A cholera epidemic has broken out and the city of Burao is restricting movement in and out. Schools and public places have had to be closed to prevent the spread of infection.
Kaltun took out food but brought back the important message that aid is desperately needed in Somaliland. She is continuing to send money to help buy food and medicines, and would like to thank her friends Nasar Raoof and Shamsa Latif as well as Gill Furniss MP, Paul Blomfield MP, and Linda McAvan MEP without whom she could not manage it. If you are able to donate money or offer medical assistance please contact Kaltun on 07495 629 327. The Messenger will also be collecting donations for Kaltun’s appeal.